1. Changing the Game
There were a couple of things Yusei had planned on doing when he’d woken up that morning: Duel, work on his D-Wheel, maybe get milk because Jack had forgotten it and Crow wasn’t going to get more. He could safely say that being stared down by a gigantic three-headed dragon decades into the past hadn’t been on the list. Yet here he was, a very long way from home and without Stardust Dragon, dueling the very madman who’d taken it from him in the first place. Good thing he wasn’t alone.
“My turn!” he announced, drawing and immediately playing the card. “With Reincarnation of Hope, I can send two monsters to the grave, and in two turns we’ll be able to add one monster from our deck to our hand." It would be Yugi’s turn then. Yusei was sure it’d be useful.
“Next, I summon Junk Synchron and use its effect to revive Road Runner. And with Junk Synchron on the field, Bolt Hedgehog revives itself!”
He closed his eyes. What he wouldn’t give to have Stardust Dragon now… But this was good enough.
“When the messenger of the winds meets the wishes of steel, the wishes form an impregnable shield. Become the path that lights the way! Synchro Summon! Appear, Junk Gardna!”
Yusei relaxed slightly. Junk Gardna would be able to hold out against Sin Cyber End Dragon. He had no idea how to destroy it, but he would rely on Yugi and Judai to come up with a way.
“I play two cards face-down and end my turn,” he said. Paradox sneered something that was predictably insulting. It still hurt. And with Sin World’s effect-
“I special summon Sin Rainbow Dragon!”
“How dare you use Johan’s card!” Judai shouted. Yusei spared him a glance. Whoever Johan was, he had to be the real Rainbow Dragon’s owner and, if the latter’s livid expression was any indication, a good friend of Judai.
Rainbow Dragon definitely wasn’t on their side now, though. Junk Gardna’s effect stopped its attack, but it couldn’t stop Sin Cyber End Dragon. Yusei hit the ground hard, and saw their life points go down even while he was still trying to get back up.
“In Sin World, if your life points hit zero, you die,” Paradox announced, supremely unconcerned. Yusei struggled back to his feet, trying not to think about the implications too hard. He’d been in life-or-death duels before. He could handle this. Junk Gardna was easily revived by his face-down Afterglow of a Miracle, and now both of Paradox’s monsters were in defense mode.
“I’m sorry…” Yusei said. They were in dire need of all their life points and they’d just lost 1400 of them.
“It’s fine,” Yugi said.
“He has two monsters with 4000 attack points, and you survived both of their attacks,” Judai said, giving him a smile. “You did great!”
“If we work together, we’ll definitely be able to beat him!”
“Right! My turn,” Judai said. He looked back at the two dragons on the field, and once again Yusei could see anger shine through in his eyes. He drew, every movement of his body carefully controlled, and stared at the card for a long time. Yusei shifted uncomfortably. To his right, he saw Yugi try to look past him.
“Have you come to terms with your inevitable failure?” Paradox asked, voice quietly mocking. Judai suddenly smiled, the anger dissipating as if it had never been there in the first place. A movement caught Yusei’s eye, and he saw Yubel put a hand on Judai's shoulder. She was smiling – no, grinning.
“Sin World will kill whoever loses this duel, right?” Judai asked. Paradox narrowed his eyes.
Judai’s smile widened. “That’s all I needed to know,” he said, and flipped the card he’d drawn moments ago. “I play a field spell: Skyscraper!”
Paradox’s furious “What?!” was drowned out by the noise of Sin World shattering all around them. The fuchsia sky became dark, and skyscrapers shot up on the once-spacious square, trapping them between holographic steel and concrete. But Yusei wasn’t looking at the buildings, or even at Paradox. His attention was on the field, where Sin Cyber End Dragon and Sin Rainbow Dragon were shattering much like Sin World had. With a last cry, both dragons disappeared, and for a moment there was silence.
“When Skyscraper is on the field, every Elemental Hero gains 1000 attack points when fighting a monster with more attack points than itself,” Judai said, “but that’s not the important part.”
“Without Sin World, no Sin monsters can stay on the field,” Yugi continued. “Amazing, Judai!”
“I don’t like watching people die,” said Judai, strangely solemn.
“You’re a fool!” Paradox told him, but the panic in his eyes was clear. “Do you really think I only have one copy of Sin World in my deck? I activate my face-down card!”
The card that opened was called Sin Tune, and Paradox wasted no time in applying its effect. He drew two cards, but bared his teeth at the sight of them.
“You didn’t draw it, did you?” Yusei asked. He shouldn’t have bothered asking; Paradox’s expression told him more than enough.
“There will be more turns,” Paradox said.
“Perhaps. But in the meantime it’s still Judai-san’s turn.”
Judai gave him a brief salute and looked up at Paradox. “Fortunately for you, I have no monsters I can summon. Fortunately for me, Yusei left me exactly what I needed.”
Yusei nodded once and Judai grinned. “Junk Gardna, direct attack!”
Paradox didn’t flinch when his life points went down, only looked at Judai with something akin to hate. Judai didn’t look bothered. He merely placed one card face-down and ended his turn.
“Go on then,” Yugi said, smiling faintly, but Paradox didn’t draw.
“You really have no idea what it’s like to fight to save people, do you?”
“I can’t speak for all of us, but I think I have a pretty good idea,” said Yugi.
“So do I,” Judai added.
“And me,” Yusei said. He wouldn’t soon forget the Dark Signers, or the Earthbound Gods that had threatened to destroy the world. “You’re trying to save people by killing more people. That is never the right way.”
Judai had closed his eyes.
“You’re naïve, Yusei. Do you know what it’s like to lose everyone who’s dear to you?” Paradox said.
Judai clenched the hand not holding his cards into a tight fist, and even Yugi tensed up. Yusei thought of Zero Reverse, and of his parents and the thousands of people who’d died in the disaster. He hadn’t even known any of them, not really, and yet it still hurt. If he lost Jack or Crow, or Aki or Rua and Ruka or Bruno… It wasn’t something he wanted to think about now. He was doing this to save them.
“It’s your turn,” he said. Yugi and Judai both looked up abruptly, attention back to the duel.
Paradox drew, then took four cards and put them next to the one card he still had left on the field.
“No Sin World then?” Yugi asked, drawing. “Too bad. My turn!” he glanced at his cards. To Yusei’s left, Judai was almost bouncing with excitement, earlier melancholy gone.
“Yugi-san!” Yusei shouted. “Use Reincarnation of Hope!”
“With pleasure, Yusei.” He looked through his deck, chose Black Magician, and held it up for all to see.
“You can’t summon it without sacrificing Junk Gardna,” Paradox said. “Black Magician doesn’t have enough attack points to defeat me, and if I draw Sin World next turn-“
Yugi interrupted him with a wave of his hand. “I don’t need to sacrifice anything, because I have something far better. I play Ancient Rules to summon Black Magician. Come forth!”
Judai cheered and even Yusei couldn’t suppress his grin at the sight of Yugi’s signature monster. Paradox, on the other hand... Yusei’d expected anger, and it was certainly there, but Paradox also looked… sad? No, not sad, resigned.
“I could finish this duel right now, but I don’t trust those face-downs,” Yugi continued, “so I use Bonds Between Teacher and Student to summon Black Magician’s loyal apprentice.”
Black Magician Girl appeared in a flurry of sparkles, and both she and Black Magician looked back at Yugi expectantly.
“I’m not done. With Black Twin Burst, I can add Black Magician Girl’s attack points to Black Magician’s. Now go! Junk Gardna, Black Magician, direct attack!”
Paradox glared at them when the two attacks hit him and erased his life points, but even when his D-Wheel stopped working and plummeted to the ground, glowing a strange light, he didn’t move. Yusei winced at the resulting crash, and Judai made a pained noise.
“That’s got to have hurt.”
“Is he dead?” Yusei asked. The smoke from the wreckage obscured his view. Judai looked rather alarmed at the suggestion.
“He shouldn’t be. Sin World wasn’t around, right?”
As if on cue, the monsters around them disappeared. Yugi, looking smaller now than he had before, gingerly made his way over to the wrecked D-Wheel, and Judai ran after him. Yusei followed. The D-Wheel was a total loss, but the rubble had miraculously missed Paradox. Even though he was unconscious, he looked unharmed. Judai tossed away a piece of bent metal that Yusei was sure had once protected the Momentum engine and crouched down next to Paradox. He checked his head, pulse and breathing with quick, efficient movements that Yusei hadn’t expected from someone who hadn’t grown up in Satellite.
“You learn a lot when you travel on your own,” Judai said when he caught Yusei looking. He turned Paradox on his side and tilted his head back. “Anyway, he’s alive. He’ll be out cold for a bit and he’ll have a killer headache when he wakes up, but I think he’ll be fine.” He pulled a face and looked at both of them. “So now what do we do with him?"
Judging by Yugi’s expression, he had exactly as many ideas as Yusei himself had. Which was to say, absolutely none whatsoever.
“We’ve got ten minutes until Pegasus arrives,” Yugi said, glancing at the clock. “We’ll need to get him out of here before anyone decides it’s safe to come here.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to turn him in to the police? He did kill Pegasus and steal all those dragons.”
“Speaking of which,” Judai grabbed Paradox’s deck, miraculously unharmed, and rifled through it, “Yusei, this is yours.”
Yusei gratefully accepted Stardust Dragon and tucked it back in his deck holder, safe with the rest of his cards. Judai took out Rainbow Dragon and Cyber End Dragon and rifled through the remaining cards. He frowned and muttered, “Not Fubuki-san’s,” then, “Yugi-san? Is this Jounouchi-san’s Red Eyes Black Dragon?”
Yugi’s eyes widened. “It is,” he said. “Why didn’t he tell me?”
“And these are Kaiba-san’s.” Judai took out three copies of Blue Eyes White Dragon and gave them to Yugi, together with the Red Eyes Black Dragon card.
Yugi studied the cards. “How come they didn’t tell me? They would’ve told me if their cards got stolen. Unless… Of course, he hasn’t stolen them yet!”
“He stole them after the duel,” Yusei said, then grimaced. That wasn’t right. “Before the duel for him, but after the duel for us, right?”
“Right, time travel.” Judai laughed. “Complicated.”
“I’ll be keeping those cards until they actually get stolen, I think. The idea of Kaiba-kun with six Blue Eyes White Dragons is kind of scary.”
“Well, I have to return these,” Judai said, waving around Rainbow Dragon and Cyber End Dragon. “Johan was beyond himself when he called me and Shou and Kaiser weren’t very happy either.”
Yusei cast a quick glance at the clock. Eight minutes.
“We have to get out of here. What do we do with his D-Wheel?” he asked. If he’d had more time, he would’ve been more than happy to find out how it worked, but unless he managed to persuade the Crimson Dragon to send him back in time just to study a D-Wheel, time was something he didn’t have.
“Yubel?” Judai asked, and Yubel appeared next to him, flesh and blood like when she’d chased off the convention-goers.
“Twice in a day.” She grinned. “I don’t know what issues you think I have, but I don’t actually need to blow up things, Judai.”
“You enjoy it, don’t lie.”
“Fair enough.” Yubel made short work of what remained of the D-Wheel. Yusei hoped he’d one day be able to find out how it’d worked.
“Yusei, mind helping me out?” Judai asked. He’d turned Paradox onto his back again. “Let’s get him out of sight, at least.”
Together they managed to carry Paradox until they found an alley, hidden from view by a tall office building. Yusei went back to the square quickly and picked up his D-Wheel, along with Judai’s bag and Pharaoh. The cat sniffed at Paradox once, huffed, and sat down while they propped Paradox up against the wall. He’d had been unconscious for a while now. Concussion? Yusei couldn’t bring himself to be overly sympathetic.
“Should we call the police?” he asked. Judai and Yugi exchanged looks.
“I think that might be a problem,” Yugi said. He frowned down at the unconscious man. “He technically hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“He killed Pegasus!”
“Oh, I know. Grandpa died because of him.” Yugi’s eyes narrowed. “But don’t you see? He didn’t kill anyone because we prevented it. He hasn’t stolen any dragons yet either. If we tell the police and they contact Kaiba-kun, which they undoubtedly will, he’ll tell them that his cards are safe and sound.”
Judai sat down against the wall, one knee pulled up against his chest. “I can take him to my time. He’s definitely stolen there,” he said. He hesitated, then shook his head.
“What is it?” Yusei asked. Judai petted Pharaoh absent-mindedly.
“Call me stupid, but I’m kind of curious. He’s no duelist. I don’t think he even wanted to duel us.”
That was something Yusei could agree with. Paradox’s deck couldn’t even work without other people’s monsters.
“So who created that deck? Did his world really get destroyed by Duel Monsters? Why did he go this far?”
Judai’s words triggered something in Yusei’s mind. “Why didn’t he try to kill Pegasus before he’d invented Duel Monsters? Wouldn’t that make far more sense?”
Yugi started to reply, but Judai hushed him. “He’s waking up. Anyone got anything to keep him under control?”
Yusei spotted a length of rope carelessly thrown away in a corner and rushed to get it. It wasn’t very strong, but after that fall Paradox wouldn’t have the strength to free himself. He fashioned cuffs out of the rope and tied Paradox’s hands together behind his back before he fully regained consciousness.
“You’ve done this before,” Judai observed.
“A few times, yes,” Yusei admitted. He’d needed to, back when Team Satisfaction had still existed. Judai and Yubel looked at each other, then back at Yusei, wearing identical grins.
Yugi coughed, cheeks turning red, and Yusei groaned. “Not like that!”
“Kidding. He’s awake!”
Paradox lifted his head slowly, eyes still closed against the light. “Didn’t have the guts to kill me?”
“No one’s dying today,” Yugi said calmly, earlier embarrassment forgotten.
“Then what do you want? Or did you just feel like keeping prisoners?” he said, opening his eyes. He closed them again immediately and groaned. “What did you do?”
“You might have a concussion. Keep still, it’ll help with the headache,” Judai said.
“Why would you care?”
Judai shrugged, even though Paradox couldn’t see him. “I’m curious.”
“Why did you come here?” Yusei asked.
“So you’re deaf now too, Fudou Yusei? To kill Pegasus-”
Yusei cut him off impatiently. “Yes, I got that. Why now? Why not kill him when he was a baby? Heck, why not kill his parents? He’s already invented Duel Monsters. Killing him now wouldn’t have erased the game.”
Paradox took a while to reply. “What’s to say I didn’t just make a mistake?”
“I don’t believe that,” Yugi said immediately. “You can travel through time, so you’re smart enough to know when you should’ve killed him. … Not that you should’ve killed anyone, but-” He looked helplessly at Yusei and Judai. “You know what I mean.”
Paradox didn’t say anything.
“Either you really are that stupid, or you tried and don’t want to admit it,” Yubel said. Paradox jerked, and she smirked. “So you did try. Failed, didn’t you?”
“The creation of Duel Monsters is fixed. If Pegasus dies, someone else takes his place. It always happens in some way,” Paradox explained grudgingly.
Yugi toyed absently with the chain around his neck and tilted his head as if listening to someone. “That makes sense,” he said.
“And so you tried now… Why?” Judai asked. “No, wait, I know why. You wanted to discredit the game. Such a high-profile murder would make people reluctant to play Duel Monsters. After a few years, it would simply fade into obscurity. That’s why Neos started disappearing. If Duel Monsters wasn’t popular, I never would’ve created the Neospacians.”
Yusei put a hand on his deck holder. No Duel Monsters? It was something he could barely imagine. Without Duel Monsters they wouldn’t have been able to fight the Dark Signers. Or would the Crimson Dragon have given them a different way? Would the Earthbound Gods have chosen another way to manifest?
“Maybe we should continue this somewhere else,” Yugi said, pointing at the sky. Clouds were gathering. It was going to rain. The weather forecast that morning had predicted a sunny day, but of course, that day was a long way in the future. Yusei reached out a hand to Judai and pulled him up.
“Where can we go?”
Yugi checked his watch. “There’s no one at my home right now. Grandpa should be at the convention.”
Paradox didn’t get up, though he finally opened his eyes again. Judai raised an eyebrow at him.
“Why should I?”
“Because you’re tied up, have nowhere to go and probably have a rather severe headache,” Judai said, shrugging. “Either you come along, or we make you come along. Your choice.”
Paradox looked at Yubel with narrowed eyes. He apparently decided not to risk it, because he struggled upright. As Yubel shed her corporeal form, Yusei quickly rechecked the cuffs. They’d hold.
The trip to Yugi’s house wasn’t very long, but it took its toll on Paradox. By the time they arrived he was white as a sheet and his pupils had narrowed into tiny pinpricks. Yugi took one look at him and sighed.
“Please go upstairs. I’ll be there in a minute.”
He really didn’t look good, Yusei thought. They wouldn’t get any answers out of him like this, and more than that, Yusei just didn’t like seeing someone in pain. Even if that someone had just attempted to kill people. He looked at Judai, who was leading the way. The other duelist looked pensive. He kept glancing back at Yubel, who was studying Paradox covertly. Once in a while, she made eye contact with Judai, as if the two were holding a silent conversation. The Crimson Dragon hadn’t showed itself since it’d brought them to the past, and Yusei’s Birthmark felt completely normal. It had to be around, but it clearly wasn’t interested in this discussion. What went on in a dragon’s mind?
That wasn’t something he had to worry about now. First they needed to find out what went on in Paradox’s mind.
Yugi’s room was easy to find. Judai sat down on the floor, and Yusei took off Paradox’s cuffs and told him to lie down. Not like he’d be able to do much damage to them here, not with Yubel and Judai and him in the room and Yugi downstairs. For a moment Paradox looked like he was going to remain standing, but he must’ve felt as awful as he looked, because he finally laid down. Pharaoh jumped on the bed and sniffed at his hand.
“Go away, cat. I’m not Antinomy.”
Pharaoh looked affronted and settled onto Judai’s lap with a plaintive meow. Yusei leaned over and scratched the cat behind his ears. They’d have to wait until Yugi came back and Paradox didn’t look like he was going to pass out. Maybe then they could finally get some answers.
Yugi was filling a can of water in the kitchen when the other him made his presence known. He’d been at the back of his mind, of course, but ever since the duel he’d mostly observed, with only the occasional comment when someone said or did something particularly interesting.
“What do you think, partner?” he asked now. Yugi put down the can and busied himself with grabbing a couple of glasses so he could get his thoughts in order.
“Judai-kun and Yusei-kun are very good duelists.”
The other him nodded. “They would provide a good challenge. What do you think about Paradox?”
“I don’t know what to think of him,” Yugi admitted. “He could just be crazy. He killed all those people in cold blood.”
Yugi dug through the kitchen cabinets until he found the painkillers. “If his world really got destroyed, then I think it’s our job to help.”
The other him chuckled fondly and followed Yugi as he gathered everything he needed and headed back upstairs. “Of course. Let’s find out what his story is, shall we?”
Yugi pushed his bedroom door open with his shoulder, and Yusei immediately got up to take the can from him. They’d made Paradox rest, he noted with satisfaction. The curtains were still open, though, and even though it had started to rain softly, the light was probably still too harsh. He walked to the window and closed the curtains, then filled one glass with water and knelt down next to the bed.
“I got you a painkiller. It’ll help.”
Paradox looked at him from the corner of his eyes. “Why are you being nice?”
Yugi shrugged, a bit annoyed. “Because I don’t like seeing people in pain?” he said, pressing the painkiller into Paradox’s hand and waiting until he’d taken it to give him the glass of water. Paradox drank without getting up.
“You said your world got destroyed,” Judai said when he’d finished drinking.
“You made it abundantly clear that you didn’t care, Judai.”
“Oh come on, I never said that! And you didn’t exactly give us the best impression, did you? You tried to kill me, actually succeeded in killing a lot of people…” At that, Judai eyes flashed briefly. Yugi didn’t blame him for being angry. Just because he wanted to hear Paradox’s story didn’t mean that he’d forgotten how he’d killed Grandpa.
“You stole Stardust and all those other dragons,” Yusei said. “Frankly, I’m not very inclined to hear you out at all. I don’t talk to murderers.”
Judai twitched, and Yugi noticed. Still, murder was never the right solution. Even if Paradox was telling the truth and he was trying to save his world, there had to be another way, one that didn’t involve killing people and destroying the present.
“They’re all alive. I didn’t kill anyone,” said Paradox bitterly.
He wishes he succeeded, the other him said in his head. Yusei had come to the same conclusion; Yugi saw him glare.
“No, you did kill,” Judai said, and there was a certain sadness in his voice. “Even if they all came back to life, the intention was there. You killed them fully intending for them to stay dead, and that’s what makes you a murderer, even if your victims are now alive.”
Paradox turned his head to stare at him, and something passed between them that Yugi didn’t recognize. “I had to,” he said finally.
“I know,” Judai replied softly.
They understand each other, the other him provided.
Yugi studied them, nodded briefly and mouthed, “Yeah.” There had to be a story there, but now was not the time to find out.
“So what do we do now?”
Yusei sighed. “I don’t know what I can do. We need to prepare for the WRGP – World Riding Grand Prix, a dueling tournament,” he explained when he saw the confusion on Yugi’s face. Paradox froze.
“The WRGP hasn’t started yet?” he asked.
Yusei gave him a strange look. “It’s starting in a few weeks.”
“Of course, you’re from before,” Paradox whispered. “It hasn’t descended yet. They’re still alive and they’re part of the timeline.”
“Before what? Who’s still alive?”
Paradox abruptly changed the subject. “There was a Momentum reactor in Neo Domino City that went out of control.”
“Neo Domino City?” asked Yugi at the same time as Judai, who said: “Momentum?” Had Domino really changed that much in the future?
Yusei looked familiar with the terms, and he explained when he saw their surprised looks.
“Neo Domino City is where I come from, and Momentum is an energy source. Very cost-efficient, with no pollution, and it can be generated as long as the Momentum Engine is running. It’s been tested thoroughly to make sure it’s safe,” he said with a pointed look at Paradox.
“Not thoroughly enough. When the Engine went out of control, Duel Monsters started to appear. The destruction was…” Paradox swallowed heavily, and Yugi felt a stab of pity. “Very few people survived the initial attacks, and even fewer survived the following years. First it was just Neo Domino, but within a few days they’d spread out all over Japan and then to Korea and Russia. It was only a matter of time before the entire world was overrun.
“We were powerless against it. Everything we had ran on Momentum, and Momentum had gone out of control. I think Tokyo managed to hold out for a day or two, but I was sixteen when it happened, so I don’t remember much.”
That had to be a lie. Paradox couldn’t be a day older than twenty-five.
“So I take it you survived. Then what?” Yubel asked.
“We decided to change the past. Duel Monsters had destroyed our world so we’d destroy Duel Monsters. End of story.”
There were so many holes in that story that Yugi wasn’t even sure where to begin. He exchanged a look with Judai and Yusei, who were clearly thinking the same. At least this confirmed that Paradox hadn’t been working alone. It also confirmed that any normal prison most likely wouldn’t be able to hold him; whoever his friends were, they’d have access to time travel and could easily get him out. Yugi sighed. How were they going to solve this?
Do you believe him? He asked the other him.
Yugi leaned back against his desk and poured himself a glass of water. There’s a lot he isn’t telling us, but I think that what he is telling us is the truth.
The other him nodded, but didn’t immediately offer his view on the subject, so instead Yugi asked out loud: “What do you think?”
“I don’t believe him,” Yusei said right away. Judai looked surprised. He took Pharaoh off his lap and turned around to face Yusei properly.
Yusei had his eyes narrowed at Paradox. “I know Momentum,” he said. “I’ve worked with it and I know how it was created and how closely it’s being kept under control. There’s no way it can just go out of control like that.”
“Have you already forgotten Zero Reverse, Yusei?”
“That was intentional sabotage!” Yusei spat. “Momentum is safe.”
Paradox smirked. “Of course. It’s personal for you, isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?” Yugi asked, putting a placating hand on Yusei’s shoulder. No need to let the situation spiral out of control.
“Fudou Yusei’s father was one of the scientists who created Momentum.”
“If you know that, then you should realize that I know a lot about it.” Yusei said coldly. “Momentum is safe. I’m sure of it.”
“Maybe it wasn’t Momentum,” Judai said, clearly trying to settle the debate before any of them did something reckless. “You said that the monsters started appearing. Maybe they appeared first and overloaded the Momentum Engine? Yusei says it can only be intentionally sabotaged, so maybe that’s exactly what happened.”
Paradox relented. “It’s possible,” he said grudgingly. “There were no records left of what happened.”
“See? There you go!” Judai smiled widely. Yusei was staring at the ceiling.
“So all of you think he’s telling the truth.”
“I don’t think he’d go to all this trouble if he wasn’t,” Yugi said simply.
“Call it a hunch, but I’m fairly sure he isn’t lying. There are… forces in this universe that would find great pleasure in destroying the world, and they’d love to use Duel Monsters for that,” Judai said, then smiled again, solemn attitude disappearing in the blink of an eye. “Besides, he’s been feeling fine for a while now and hasn’t tried to get away yet. He’s suddenly decided to tell us his story, which can only mean that he thinks we could help and that making us believe him is in his best interests.”
Paradox didn’t seem willing to confirm whether Judai was right. “Where’s my deck?” he asked.
“Oh, here.” Judai held out the deck. Paradox snatched it from him and rifled through it. Yugi briefly spotted a magic card with a strange archway on it, but a second later Paradox had already tucked it away.
“You’re just giving it back to him?” Yusei asked incredulously. Judai shrugged.
“Why not? It’s not like he can do anything with it right now. We checked, remember?”
“After all this, you just trust him to-” Yusei made a frustrated noise and got up. “I’m sorry, Judai-san, Yugi-san. I’m going to step outside for a second.”
He took great care not to slam the door. Judai looked down.
“I’ll go check on him,” said Yugi. “Judai-kun, can you handle things here?”
Judai nodded and Yubel smirked. “He’d be a fool to try anything.”
“Don’t trust him because you feel sorry for him,” Yugi said softly as he left the room. Judai flinched, and Yubel put a hand on his shoulder, eyes focused on Paradox. Paradox, for his part, was either ignoring her or, more likely, just couldn’t see her in this form.
He found Yusei in the hallway, head pressed against the window. Yugi stood next to him, and for a minute they both just watch the rain fall. Yusei closed his eyes after a while, giving Yugi the chance to study him. He looked conflicted and angry, but most of all alone. Yugi was home, and Judai still had Yubel and Pharaoh with him, but Yusei was entirely on his own. Hard to believe Yusei was actually the oldest of them. He certainly didn’t look like it now.
Yugi waited patiently until Yusei felt like talking, and he wasn’t disappointed. After another few seconds Yusei raised his head and opened his eyes.
“Why does Judai-san trust him?”
“I don’t know,” Yugi said. “He probably has his reasons.”
“Then why do you?”
“I don’t trust him,” Yugi corrected gently, and Yusei relaxed just the tiniest bit. “How could I? He killed Grandpa and he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if he thought it would help him. I don’t think he’d hesitate to kill any of us, and I’m very sure Judai-kun knows that too. But I do believe him.”
“Why?” Yusei finally looked at him.
Yugi hesitated, trying to find the right words. Finally he settled for another question. “If he isn’t trying to save his world, what do you think he is trying to do?”
Yusei looked taken aback. “How could I know what drives a murderer? Maybe he just likes killing.”
“Would he really go to the trouble of inventing time travel for that?”
“Who says he invented it? Maybe it already existed in his future,” Yusei countered. Yugi inclined his head. That was a possibility he hadn’t considered yet, but Yusei was right.
“Still, it’s an awful lot of trouble, don’t you think? Go to the past, steal people’s monsters, all just to kill one man?”
Yusei sighed. “Okay, so assuming he’s telling the truth, why is he killing people? That’s never the right way.”
Despair, the other him said.
“Despair,” repeated Yugi. “It can make people do terrible things.”
“He’s really so desperate that he would resort to murder?”
“I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Yusei looked unconvinced. They lapsed into silence for a minute, and Yugi could hear Judai and Paradox talking in his room. Yusei had heard them too, He cocked his head slightly, trying to hear what they were saying, but their voices were too soft to make out.
“What should we do next? Judai-san is going to want to help him.” Yusei said. Yugi nodded. More than likely.
“I’m not opposed to it myself. Not for his sake,” he said quickly, “but for the people in his world. They do deserve to live as well.”
“We’ll need to know all the details. I want to know how that Momentum reactor went out of control. I don’t think Momentum can be overloaded, but if it were reversed…” Yusei's explanation suddenly became so technical that Yugi’s mind boggled. He asked the other him for backup, but only received confusion in return.
“… So if the gears destroyed each other, that would blow up the system, but there should be failsafes for that. They’d be stupid to-“
“Yusei-kun, that went right over my head,” Yugi said, and Yusei fell into an embarrassed silence. “Talk about it with Paradox. He should be able to tell you more.”
Yusei nodded and moved away from the window, and Yugi took that as their cue to go back. Judai and Paradox had fallen silent. When Yugi and Yusei entered the room, both of them looked up. Paradox had gotten up and was now sitting instead of lying down, while Judai was looking out of the window. He turned around when they came in and gave Yusei an anxious smile.
“I’m sorry, Yusei.”
Yusei waved his apology away and leaned back against the door. He looked at Paradox.
“Tell me what happened. I need the details.”
“Have you decided to believe me after all?”
“All the details,” Yusei repeated. “If your story holds up, I’ll consider it.”
What followed was another technical discussion so complicated that it left Yugi and Judai staring at each other in confusion. Both Yusei and Paradox were well-versed in the subject; after a few minutes they were bouncing theories off each other like they’d done so all their lives.
Yugi stepped out when Grandpa came home to tell him he had friends over and to dissuade him from coming upstairs. When he came back, Judai had taken out his laptop – even newer than the models Yugi had seen at Kaiba Corporation, but apparently not sophisticated enough for Yusei and Paradox’s liking – and Yusei was typing away at high speed, making calculations with the data Paradox provided.
“Okay,” he said after half an hour. Yugi looked up from the duel he’d started with Judai. “I’ll buy that the reactor went out of control, but that's only enough to damage Neo Domino. It would only be on the scale of Zero Reverse,” he made a face, “which is bad enough, obviously, but you said the entire world got ruined.”
“The Machine Emperors,” Paradox said. He wanted to continue, but Yusei held up a hand.
“Yes,” said Paradox cautiously.
“Machine Emperor Wisel?”
“One of them, yes,” Paradox was staring at Yusei. “How do you- Oh! Of course, yes. Aporia.”
“You know Yliaster,” Yusei said, voice suddenly ice. “I should’ve known.”
Yugi looked at Judai, who shrugged. The conversation had taken a very different turn, one he couldn’t follow.
“I know them, but I don’t work with them. Our methods are very different.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” Yusei muttered. “How many of you are there anyway?”
“A lot of us died,” Paradox said, and Yugi decided he was awful at evading questions. But this changed things. They’d known Paradox hadn’t been working alone, but now they knew his friends were apparently dangerous in their own right. It made the situation a lot more volatile, and Yugi was instantly on his guard, duel with Judai forgotten.
“What’s Yliaster?” Judai asked.
“They’ve been attacking people,” Yusei gritted out. “If he’s working with them-”
“I already told you, I’m not working with them.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Look, the data checks out, doesn’t it?” Paradox said exasperatedly. “I haven’t been lying.”
“You could’ve just as easily made it up. All we have is your word.”
“I made all this up just so I’d have a cover story on the off-chance that all of us managed to survive a duel with Sin World in play? I have better things to do with my time. Why would I have lied about the Machine Emperors if I knew you knew Yliaster?”
“Easy. You made a mistake.”
“I am not lying! How hard is it for you to understand that?” Paradox spat.
“He really isn’t,” Judai said, staring at Paradox intently, and for a second Yugi saw his eyes glow. “I can tell. He’s telling the truth about the Machine Emperors.”
The mark on Yusei’s arm flared red, and his attention was suddenly diverted. He went through a whole range of facial expressions before finally settling on resigned. “If you say so,” he murmured, then, “Okay, fine, you're not lying. What do you plan on doing now?”
“Save my future,” Paradox said. ‘Idiot’ went unsaid, but it was plain for all to hear.
As far as plans went, Yugi had heard better ones.
“I have a friend who might be able to help,” said Judai. “His brothers own a corporation… Well, I’m not exactly sure what they do, but I’m sure they can help fund research or something. Maybe Industrial Illusions too.”
“After he killed Pegasus?” Yusei asked dubiously. Judai shrugged.
“They don’t need to know that, right?”
“Then what do we do with him?” Yusei pointed a thumb at Paradox. “He can’t stay here and we can’t let him run around causing more havoc.”
“I can-” Judai said, but Paradox interrupted him, pointing back at Yusei.
“I’ll go with him.”
“What?” Yusei said. “This isn’t something you get to decide!”
Paradox sat up straighter, eyes alert and fixed solely on Yusei. “I go with you, and I swear I won’t try anything. I won’t try to attack you, I won’t try to harm you or whoever you care about, I won’t steal anything.” He glanced at Judai. “Anyone else, and I won’t make such guarantees.”
Judai raised his eyebrows, but didn’t look overly concerned.
“No more time travel,” Yusei said.
“It’s not like I have a way of traveling, now that you so thoroughly destroyed my D-Wheel.”
Yusei snorted. “We’ve already established that you weren’t working alone, so whoever you’re working with can travel through time as well. No time travel and no contact with Yliaster.”
“No time travel,” Paradox reluctantly agreed. He was twitching, left hand moving as if he was writing something down. Yusei groaned, clearly wondering what he was getting himself into, and Yugi could sympathize. Paradox was not trustworthy. What if he attacked Yusei’s friends? Really, there was no doubt that he was planning something. Yusei’s time seemed important to him, but Yugi couldn’t fathom why.
Yusei sighed and looked at Yugi and Judai.
“Your call,” Yugi said softly. “We’ll still be able to help you. We can send you information.”
He wondered what it would take for Kaiba to investigate something he barely knew anything about. Maybe he should wait until his Blue Eyes White Dragons got stolen. It would lend some credibility to the story, though Kaiba would be furious.
There’s something new, the other him said, and Yugi suppressed a grin.
Yusei was staring out of the window again, face pained. He put one hand on his deck holder, running his thumb over the cards. Yugi wondered if he was even aware that he was doing it.
“You have our help,” he said again.
“If I do this, I’m not doing it for your sake,” Yusei told Paradox. Paradox nodded.
“Fair enough. Neither am I.”
“I will try to save your world, but you’ll give me all the information I need. If I find out you were holding anything back-”
“Alright,” Paradox agreed again.
“You’re not contacting anyone unless I know and trust them.”
“Fine by me.” This time Paradox agreed so easily that Yugi suddenly became suspicious. Still, Yusei wouldn’t trust anyone who would help Paradox. Yusei’s conditions were foolproof. Unfortunately they had no way to make sure that Paradox would actually follow them. He grimaced, and one look at Yusei’s face told him he’d come to the same conclusion.
Paradox had too. He snorted. “Why don’t you put a criminal marker on me if you’re so worried?”
“No!” Yusei all but shouted. He took a deep breath and touched the mark that Yugi had assumed was a tattoo. “No,” he said, calmer now. “No markers. I’m not putting anyone through that.”
The mark on his arm flared red again, and if anything, Yusei looked relieved. “But if you do break your promise, I believe the Crimson Dragon would like a word,” he said.
Paradox made a disgusted sound. “Of course the dragon would help you. Whatever. It’s fine.”
Far too easy. Yugi glanced at Judai, who shook his head, his eyes glowing again. Apparently Paradox still wasn’t lying, so whatever he was planning to do, Yusei’s conditions were no obstacle. And while Yugi could easily believe that Paradox did want to save his world, he couldn’t believe that he wanted to do so on their terms.
“You agree to all that?” Yusei asked, eyes narrowed at Paradox. Paradox gave him an exasperated look.
“I already told you that I did, didn’t I?”
“Okay, then we have a deal,” Yusei said after a moment of deliberation, and Paradox looked almost relieved. Yusei picked up Judai’s laptop again and started pouring over data, asking for clarification once in a while. Yugi suspected he was just doing it to put his mind at ease.
At eight, Yusei took Judai’s laptop and mumbled something about transferring information to his board computer, and Yugi left the room with him to order pizza and give Grandpa an edited version of the story. It took Yusei until after dinner to wrap up his work, and for lack of a printer compatible with Judai’s laptop, Yugi eventually resorted to just copying everything Yusei had typed up by hand. It made little sense to him, but someone out there ought to know what it all meant, and they’d be able to help them.
A little past ten, Judai yawned widely and started a conversation with the Rainbow Dragon card Paradox had stolen.
“He wants to go back to Johan,” he announced. “He thinks it’s been far too long.”
“We should go back home,” Yusei said, nodding but looking at Paradox from the corner of his eyes. Still not looking forward to it, apparently. Yugi didn’t really blame him, but surely the Crimson Dragon would be enough to keep him in check.
“You can spend the night here, if you want,” he suggested. “I’m sure Grandpa won’t mind and it doesn’t really matter when you leave here, right? Only when you arrive.”
Judai looked tempted, but he shook his head. “Nah, we should go back.”
It made Yugi strangely sad. For all he knew, this would be the last time he saw either Judai or Yusei, and he wished he could spend more time getting to know them. As if reading his mind, Judai grabbed a pen and paper and wrote down a phone number.
“In about a decade, that’ll be my number, so call me if you want,” he told Yugi. Yugi accepted the piece of paper and carefully put it in his desk drawer. Judai put his laptop away again, then picked up Pharaoh, who’d fallen asleep on Yugi’s desk chair and didn’t take kindly to being woken up.
“Yugi-san, it was an honor meeting you,” Yusei said. Yugi smiled.
“Likewise, Yusei-kun. I hope we’ll get to meet again!”
“And duel!” Judai added. He bent closer to Yusei as they left the room. “Are you sure the Crimson Dragon can handle three of us?”
“I don’t see why not,” Yusei said. They left the house in silence, but as Yusei started his D-Wheel and Paradox walked forward, followed by Judai, Judai turned around again.
“You’ll see me again, Yugi-san!”
“I’ll look forward to it, Judai-kun!”
Judai grinned and he and Yusei waved, just as Yusei’s birthmark glowed again and the Crimson Dragon appeared, enveloping the three of them. A second later they were gone.
“Good luck, Yusei-kun,” Yugi whispered, just as Grandpa came outside.
“Did Yusei-kun have a dragon with his motorbike?” he asked.
Yugi nodded. “They were from the future, Grandpa.”
“They have motorbikes with dragons in the future?” Grandpa marveled. “My, they’ve certainly come a long way, haven’t they?”